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Comic Book Review: "Teen Titans Annual #1: The Culling: Part One"
The Teen Titans first crossover “The Culling” begins in their first DC Comics New 52 Annual issue. Written by Scott Lobdell with art by Tom Defalco and Brett Booth, “Part One” of The Culling brings the Titans into a Dante’s Inferno under N.O.W.H.E.R.E.’s Artic Lab. Lorded over by the Man-Monster Harvest, this apocalyptic wasteland is everything the Titans, and every other teen imprisoned in the Colony (human, meta-human, infected or out of the time stream), have been fearing and has them fighting for their very lives. This issue brings together the Teen Titans (Tim Drake-Red Robin, Cassie Sandsmark-Wonder Girl, Miguel Barragan-Bunker, Kiran Singh-Solstice, Celine Patterson-Skitter, Bart Allen-Kid Flash and Superboy) and Legion Lost as both teams try to fight against the evil of Harvest’s plans: He wants to force them to fight and kill each other and the winners becomes members of his Ravager’s.
Chapter One begins with Red Robin is on the ground with spear to his throat. Artemis, Lightning and Thunder (the latter, sister and brother), are standing over him in a hellish wasteland known as the Colony. Artemis threatens to kill Drake. He quickly and easily subdues her as the siblings watch in good humor. They all make peace, realizing they aren’t enemies, and dash off through the landscape to regroup with the other Titans.
Artemis explains that hundreds of meta-human and normal human teenagers are imprisoned in the Colony. They are to be pitted against each other in a gladiatorial battle called The Culling. The survivors become Harvest’s “Ravagers”. Tim is impressed with Artemis’ knowledge. She says she was pre-med before N.O.W.H.E.R.E. kidnapped her.
The quartet runs into Fist Point, who demands a toll be paid for being on his turf. A fight ensues. They defeat “Kevin” and Artemis tells him that the next time they meet one of them will die. They return to their camp where Tim is reunited with the rest of the Titans. Solstice is trying to convince Superboy to join the team. He is hesitant, because they don’t trust him. Kiran tells him he’ll need to earn their trust. Superboy agrees, but Cassie is skeptical: if they hadn’t saved him, they wouldn’t be there now. Tim says they might be exactly where they can do the most good.
Chapter Two begins one mile below, in the arena called the Crucible. Tyroc (of the Legion Lost) is trying to fight a force field to no avail. Timber Wolf makes fun of him. Chameleon Girl transforms into a whale and dives into the lava river to see if she can find an exit. The rest of the Legion (Gates, Wildfire, Dawnstar, and Tellus,) arrive and report that they can’t find a way out either. The technology being used to trap them seems to be 31st century (the Legion’s original time).
Harvest, Omen, Leash and Warblade are watching all this on a view screen. Harvest says he brought the Legion to this time era to have a fully trained military group and plans to pits them against The Titans. He tells Leash to start with the Titans.
Chapter Three starts back in the Colony, Leash transports in and starts grabbing up participants (with his tentacles) to be taken to The Crucible to fight the Legion. The Titans fight against him, but he manages to take Lightning and all the Titans except Skitter. After they are gone, an unknown person calls to Skitter, calling her sister, and asks her to follow.
Leash drops the Titans at the Crucible to face the Legion. The two teams fight each other vigorously. Red Robin tries the get Tyroc to surrender, but he refuses. Superboy and Wildfire fight over who is working for N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Superboy realizes that this was a setup by Harvest for the two teams to kill each other.
At the Chamber of Harvest, they watch the battle on the screen. Omen points out that no one is killing each other. Harvest says the plan was to have the two teams wear each other down. He tells Leash to commence “The Culling”.
In the Colony, Artemis, Beast Boy, Thunder, and Terra are attacked by Leash, who whips them up into a blind rage and sends them off to “The Culling”.
Chapter Four beings in the Crucible, as hundreds of enraged teens fall out the sky to fight the Legion and the Titans in a blind fury. The two teams decide to work together to defeat their attackers.
Beast Boy, in a rage, attacks Lighting. Wildfire saves her.
Fist Point (Kevin), in his rage, kills Artemis. Red Robin beats Kevin down, forcing himself to NOT kill him. He blames Harvest for her death and proclaims that he is coming after him. Cassie wants to exact revenge for Harvest forcing people to kill each other. Tim says they have to stay focused; revenge in not the answer.
Chapter Five starts with the Legion and the Titans working together. They combine their powers to take down all the raging teens. Harvest, watching from a distance, is pleased. He had planned this all along and tells Warblade and Omen to “go forth and reap the dark winds”.
At the Crucible, the teams have finished subduing the raging teenagers. Tim asks Tyroc where the Legion is really from, because no one believes they’re from the future. Tyroc says that their disbelief of understandable; according to their records, the Teen Titan don’t form for another 40 years.
Kid Flash says they should try to get out of the Colony before the reinforcements arrive, but just as he says it, Omen, Warblade, Templar and the rest of Harvest’s Army arrive.
This first part of “The Culling” is fascinating; it adds a sci-fi, surrealist slant on the world of Meta-humans in DC Comics New 52 universe. It begins to explain what has been going on through the entire Teen Titans series so far: why N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has been targeting meta-teens and why they’re experimenting on them. Harvest wants a “perfect” army and he’s been scouring the world looking for the best candidates to fight it out in elimination rounds until the “best” are left and his army is complete. It’s so calculated and sinister. This particular issue, “Teen Titans Annual #1” is giant-sized, with a virtual appendix of information on “The Culling” and the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Artic Lab. It presents bios and sketch art on many of the new characters. It has a Dante Alighieri style diagram of the entire N.O.W.H.E.R.E. lab: the surface facility, the underground lab and holding cells, the “Superboy Project” room and, miles underneath all that, the Chamber of Harvest, the Omen‘s Womb, the Colony and the Crucible. It makes for an interesting addition to the entire story and gives a preview for the upcoming “Ravagers” series. The rest of “The Culling” continues in Superboy #9 (part 2), legion lost 9 (part 3) and wrapping up in Teen Titans #9 (part 4).
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